May 25 – Our visit to St Albans Cathedral

Dinner with Hanna

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Michael, Rachael and I have an appointment to meet two ladies from the St Albans Cathedral to discuss the possibility of holding an exhibition in the cathedral some time. H and L were lovely ladies and were very keen on the sound of the Medieval Mosaic and we discussed how and where it might be displayed. They have to take the proposal to several meetings and will get back to us in a couple of weeks.

We spent several hours exploring the cathedral. One of the things that impress us in the cathedrals is the choir stalls where the College of Canons sits. Several of the Honorary Canon Stalls attracted our attention were Matthew Paris, St Ethelburga, King Offa, St Aidan, St Alban.

Matthew Paris or Matthew of Paris (c. 1200 – 1259), was a Benedictine monk, English chronicler, artist in illuminated manuscripts and cartographer, based at St Albans Abbey in Hertfordshire. He wrote a number of works, mostly historical, which he scribed and illuminated himself, typically in drawings partly coloured with watercolour washes, sometimes called “tinted drawings”. Some were written in Latin, some in Anglo-Norman or French verse.

St Ethelburga (died c.675 CE) was the first leader of a monastic order for women in England. Having refused an arranged marriage to a pagan prince, she was banished to a nunnery by her brother, Erkonwald who later became Bishop of London (Bishopsgate, where St Ethelburga’s Centre now stands, was named after him.) She proved to be a natural leader and became the first Abbess of the great Benedictine Abbey at Barking in Essex, one of the first religious houses for women in the country. She is especially noted for her heroic conduct in caring for the sick during an outbreak of the plague in 664 which eventually killed her and most of her community. During this time she is said to have had a vision of a light “brighter than the sun at noonday” which inspired her and her community to carry out works of great compassion in caring for others. Her saint day is October 11th and she is one of the saints we researched when we were doing the research for the Queen’s Robing Room in Westminster Palace.

King Offa was King of Mercia, a kingdom of Anglo-Saxon England, from 757 until his death in July 796. Offa came to the throne after a period of civil war following the assassination of Æthelbald.

St Aidan or Aidan of Lindisfarne (died 31 August 651) was an Irish monk and missionary credited with restoring Christianity to Northumbria. He founded a monastic cathedral on the island of Lindisfarne, known as Lindisfarne Priory, served as its first bishop, and travelled ceaselessly throughout the countryside, spreading the gospel to both the Anglo-Saxon nobility and to the socially disenfranchised (including children and slaves).

St Alban is venerated as the first-recorded British Christian martyr. He is believed to have been beheaded in the Roman city of Verulamium sometime during the 3rd or 4th century, and his life has been celebrated there since ancient times. His shrine is in the cathedral and is the site of national pilgrimage for over 1700 years.

St Albans Cathedral has the longest nave in England at 85 metres. It also has stunning Medieval wall paintings ranging from late 12th century to the 16th century. It also has some very wonderful stained glass windows including the rose window of magnificently coloured glass by Alan Younger was added to Grimthorpe’s north transept rose window and unveiled in 1989 by Diana, Princess of Wales. There is also a sculpture by Rory Young which was installed in the niches of the medieval nave screen in 2015.

In the evening we met Hanna, Mike’s cousin, for dinner at an Italian restaurant then we had a nice walk around the Verulamium Park visiting the ruins, duck ponds and bagging a couple of geocaches too. Thank you to Hanna for referring us to St Albans Cathedral.